Monday, November 18, 2013

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Saturday was Sleeping Beauty at the Opera House at the Kennedy Center. And this was not your mother’s version of Sleeping Beauty. This was completely and totally re-imagined. Sleeping Beauty starts in 1890 with Princess Aurora birth. When she finally wakes up it is the present. Interesting to have a cell phone and digital cameras in a ballet with music by Tchaikovsky. Also where a puppet plays a major role in the story.

Here’s a little more on the thinking about the story from Matthew Bourne himself:

“I said to myself, ‘Well, it doesn’t have a great love story: The prince comes on very late in the ballet and just wakes her up, and then they get married. That’s more or less it,’ ” he says. “Not a great story.”

The character of Princess Aurora too, can seem frustratingly passive from a modern perspective: Falling instantly in love with the stranger who has kissed you, after you’ve been meekly dozing for decades, hardly testifies to a developed personality, for instance. Bourne yearned for Aurora’s character “to be a little more complex.”

He also felt that, in the traditional ballet rendering, “the good-vs.-evil story peters out a little bit”: The evil fairy, Carabosse, makes her big entrances early on in the ballet, while the final wedding scene, crammed by Petipa with divertissements for storybook characters, lacks dramatic conflict.

Gradually, Bourne began to discern mythic and psychological depths in the story that intrigued him. The protectiveness of “Sleeping Beauty’s” king and queen seemed to speak to the ambivalence many parents feel as they watch their kids age out of childhood. The triggering of Carabosse’s curse, when Aurora pricks her finger, symbolizes the advent of sexual maturity.

And he became increasingly fascinated by the concept of Aurora’s long sleep — a narrative conceit that, to a choreographer, presented tantalizing possibilities for devising dances in the styles of different eras. The slumber also seemed an opportunity to create a great, odds-defying romance.

And here’s the reason for the puppet:

Bourne’s determination to bolster characterization led him to include puppetry in “Sleeping Beauty”: Rather than use a doll or faceless bundle to represent baby Aurora, as a traditional ballet production might, this production features a puppet.

I really enjoyed this.

Here are a couple of shots of the costumes in the show.

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